Suozzi Urges NY to Dial Back Bail Reform

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Tom Suozzi (Credit: Charles Eckert)

By Morgan C. Mullings

Gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) held a Zoom call Jan. 4 to present his public safety policy, focusing on bail and social services.

The press conference was partially motivated by a recent report that murders in New York City in 2021 neared 500, a number the city hasn’t reached since 2011.

“It’s hard to even focus on this in the midst of all the other stuff going on with COVID right now, but unfortunately, when you’re the chief executive, you have to focus on a lot of different moving pieces,” said Suozzi.

He is demanding that Gov. Kathy Hochul adjust bail reform laws to give judges more power to remand someone after arrest based on their possible threat to public safety. Those who have already committed a crime often commit more once they are released, and Suozzi wants to stop this from happening. That policy is at the heart of a decades-long debate about the term “innocent until proven guilty.”

“We’re trying to reform the system, and we’re trying to make a better system. And I’m saying that we need to give judges discretion in the cases of where someone has a history of violent crime,” Suozzi said. “We need to take into account if somebody’s record has shown that person having a propensity for violence, and they’ve been arrested again, that we can’t let them out onto the streets again so readily.”

Suozzi’s statement came about two years into the sweeping bail reform that changed the state’s practices on bail and pretrial detention. According to analysis from the first year, there was a steep drop in bail setting followed by sharp spike in judges’ decision to set bail. The reforms’ effects have been greatly diminished.

Suozzi acknowledges the justice that needs to happen for people in communities of color who are subject to disproportionate arrests, detention, and police presence. He said he wants to put resources in those communities to help with that. As he says in nearly every press conference, he describes himself as a “common sense” Democrat who wants both justice and public safety, not one or the other.

This story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com

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